Saturday 31 July 2010

ABC program on Sharia finance in Australia

I was recently interviewed by Charlotte Glennie of the ABC, for a program on Sharia finance in Australia.  I was approached, apparently, as result of some commentary that I’d posted on the issue.  The show is about to air soon, or may already have done so.  See correspondence below with Charlotte. 
Also, below all this, is email to the Deputy Treasurer of Australia, Nick Sherry, who has been promoting Sharia finance.  In that I summarise my views against it.

Friday 30 July 2010

"No" to Turkey joining the EU

There’s  renewed push to get Turkey into the EU.  Most recently, and shockingly – well, I was shocked – by David Cameron during his visit to Turkey.
Theodore Dalrymple, commenting on another issue, noted:
“An important feature of sentimentality – one that is disastrous in deciding policy – is the mistaking of a wish for the fact. “[1]
David Cameron mistakes a wish for a fact: he wishes that Turkey can be a bridge between the Muslim world and mistakes that for a fact, or an achievable fact.  But this is the sentimental fallacy: and one which, as Dalrymple notes, is disastrous for deciding policy. In this case, disastrous for Europe as well.  Let me explain...
[2 Aug postcript: Peter Hitchens (the younger Hitchens) on Turkey's joining, here.  (hat-tip to RH)].

Tuesday 27 July 2010

More on the veil....

Saira KhanThought I'd save this article in its entirety below, just in case it disappears on the newspaper's site....
And it's also further to my post on the issue here.  (which, btw, led to another of my letters to SCMP being published, two on Islam in two weeks; I wonder what's going on at the Post?)
"Why I, as a British Muslim woman, want the burkha banned from our streets"
By Saira Khan
Last updated at 8:40 AM on 24th June 2009
Shopping in Harrods last week, I came across a group of women wearing black burkhas, browsing the latest designs in the fashion department.
The irony of the situation was almost laughable. Here was a group of affluent women window shopping for designs that they would never once be able to wear in public.Yet it's a sight that's becoming more and more commonplace. In hardline Muslim communities right across Britain, the burkha and hijab - the Muslim headscarf - are becoming the norm.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Getting to know Islam

One of the things that many Muslims said in the wake of 911 and the alleged backlash against Muslims then was that non-Muslims should learn more about Islam, then they would understand that it is a "religion of peace".  That's what I -- and many thousands of others -- did; we went first to the Koran then read around the religion, in the Hadith and the Sira, the life of Muhammad.  And found what we found: that it is the opposite of a religion of peace, as it is laid out in its base documents, the doctrine of the faithful.
Now we find the same in a study in Germany: that the more young Muslim Germans study the tenets of Islam -- that is, the more they know about it -- the more violent they are:
"A new German study shows that boys growing up in pious Muslim families, are more likely to be violent".  Study here, thanks to
Photo above: [And yet]: "German converts to Islam make a valuable contribution to a dialog between Muslims and non-Muslims" according to Der Spiegel, 13 Sept 2007.   The author, anthropologist Esra Özyürek from the University of California, San Diego, clearly has not read the basic documents of Islam.  And how much of the "dialog" is Muslims telling non-Muslims what they must do to accommodate the "religion of peace"....

Peter the Great, the modest emperor

St Petersburg, Russian capital for 300 years (1710-1917), home of Peter the Great, the 2 metre tall (6'7") emperor, who went to Holland "incognito", to learn how to build boats, came back and built himself a small log cabin on the first island to be occupied, amongst the 42 swampy then mosquito-ridden islands that now make up the city, and an even smaller church, overbuilt by St Isaacs, the fourth-largest cathedral in the world,  is now a flourishing Venetian-Pragueian combo, wide-boulevarded skirted by vidid green which bursts quickly on trunks for the short but long-dayed summer, and trod by mini-skirted slim-legged blondies, all white people, all european, just as he saw it, the multi-culturalist of the day, but all in pastel skins.

Friday 16 July 2010

Arguments on the veil

A couple of recent articles attacking the French ban on the niqab, one in the New York Times and one South China Morning Post.  What these non-Muslim apologists for the niqab never mention is the number of Muslim women in the west who hate the wretched things and who wish that the west would indeed make it illegal so that they’ve got something with which to fight peer and spouse pressure to put on their Darth Vader masks. 
[Postscript: article from British Muslim woman saying she would like the niqab banned in the UK. Here.]
Copies below with my comments in dark blue.

"The original abyss between Israelis and Palestinians"; back to the Mandate?

James Carroll's interesting article, in the liberal The Boston Globe on 12th July, copied below in full.  [I've numbered the paras for ease of reference].
His key thesis in para [5]: "...the Israeli and Palestinian stories are not contradictory but parallel. Jews and Arabs did not dig the ditch that keeps them apart.
"To shift the analogy, Israelis and Palestinians are trapped in a corner. But the walls of that corner were constructed by someone else — an unacknowledged third party. Those walls are anti-Semitism and colonialism...".
It raises a number of questions for me:

Thursday 15 July 2010

"The myth of modern Jihad" -- really?

Letter to New York Times: (my earlier comment on this issue here).
[why the Question mark?  See below, after letter]

Will Robert Wright now issue a corrigendum, or better yet, a mea culpa, for his piece on 29th June (“The myth of modern jihad”) in which he took the Times Square would-be bomber’s guilty plea as evidence that it’s grievance that drives Islamist terrorism and thus “the holy war could end if America could stop using military force”.  In the course of this “analysis”, Wright heaped scorn on those like Daniel Pipes who see the view the Islamist threat in more existential terms: Islamists that are out to get the west, because we are “infidels”, who don’t follow the “one true path” and worship only Allah.

Sunday 11 July 2010

All clear on the Hong Kong front

How does one segue from the Iranian horror of the stoning of young Aisha to the infinity pool of Club Siena, without seeming unfeeling, uncaring, insensitive, or worse, simply a do-nothing?  One doesn't.  One can only thank one's... what, god?  allah?  

Christianity, Slavery and bastard love children

Reading Christopher Hitchens' memoir, Hitch-22, and was startled by his obvious admiration of Edward Said (having recently said some horrid things about Said, I was surprised that Hitchens, a fellow of refulgent intelligence, should have been conned by said Said....), so I did some roaming round and was led to a 2007 essay titled  "Hitchens simply cannot be this stupid", which turns out to be an essay on slavery, the role of Christianity in abolishing it, and thence to a comment about the benefits, or lack thereof, of Christianity itself.  A brief exchange in the comments section ending with this from a rather sharp and tart "Fanusi Khiyal":

Wednesday 7 July 2010

"Stop stoning and Sharia law"

More below from Maryam Namazie of the One Law for All coalition:
[The photo at left is of Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, 13, who was stoned to death in an Iranian stadium, in November 2008, in front of 1,000 onlookers.  Her "crime"?  She was raped by three men.  Any of those men arrested?  You're kidding, right?  The fact that she reported the rape "proved" that she was "guilty" of adultery.  That's Shariah law for you.]
[Postscript 14th Aug: American Thinker article of 8/8.
Back to Maryam...

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Barenboim's Wolf Foundation acceptance speech a travesty

A friend sent me a video link of Daniel Barenboim accepting the Wolf prize for music, which is below.
My comment...

This video reminds me of an observation:

If the Palestinians put down their guns, there will be peace in the Middle East;
If the Israelis put down their guns, Israel will be annihilated...
Edward Said (Barenboim’s “late lamented colleague”) was a silkily poisonous influence whose chief legacy is a grander jihad against Jews and the West.  Read his writings. (his most famous is “Orientalism”, which drew its inspiration from Sayyid Qutb and gave succour to the likes of Arafat, and in turn to bin Laden).

Monday 5 July 2010

Hizb ut-Tahrir is not moderate

Letter to the Weekend Oz:

Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) may not directly advocate terrorism, but they’re most certainly not the benign group its representative Mr Badar would have us believe. (“Islamic hardliners return after push for ban fails”, The Weekend Australian, July 3-4.  Related here).  It is indeed extremist.

"Islamic finance abroad, not for HK homebuyers"

Letter to South China Morning Post (Postcript: published as below)
Akhtar Hussain can indeed continue to be a devout Muslim and buy a home here. (“Islamic finance abroad, not for HK homebuyers”,SCMP, Jul 04 -- see below).
Despite what his Mufti advises, the Koranic injunction is not on interest, but on Riba, which is translated in all 11 major Koranic translations as “usury” (NOT “interest” in any one of the translations).[1] In one of the verses (3.130) it is hinted that usury is defined by 100% interest, a far cry from the 3% available locally.
So called “Islamic finance”, or Shariah finance, is not mandated for Muslims, unless they wish to highlight Islamist leanings.  It was Pakistani Islamist, Sayyid Abul-Ala Mawdudi, [that's him above] founder of the radical Jamaat-e-Islami, who created the intellectual basis of Shariah Finance in the 1960s. Until then the whole umma got along quite happily with conventional finance. Shariah finance has been pursued since the sixties by Islamist-leaning bodies. In promoting it here in Hong Kong, Mufti Arshad is knowingly or not promoting that Mawdudi agenda, which professor Timur Kuran has characterised as aimed to “invoke Islamic authority in a domain that modern civilization has secularized”.[2]

If our government were to seek to promote Shariah finance in Hong Kong, it would need not only to change our tax laws, but also our property laws, our insolvency laws and our securities laws. This entails a cost on the rest of society, which we should not have to bear.
Far better, surely, for us to adopt the stance of the UK regulator, the Financial Services Authority: “The FSA’s attitude towards Shariah finance is that they will not provide any hindrances for it, nor will they provide any encouragement. This is because the FSA is secular in nature and not a religious regulator.”[3]
And far better for Mr Hussain to go to his local HSBC for a loan, with no guilt that he is going against a bogus “law”.
Peter F,

[1] Verses with “usury”: 2.275, 2.278, 3.130, 4.161, 30.39. Translations here.
[2] Timur Kuran, “Islam and Mammon; the economic predicaments of Islamism”. Princeton University Press, p. 52.
[3] Islamic Law: An Introduction to Shariah in the UK, In Brief, June 2009. Here.
As run in SCMP, 11th July
(click to enlarge)

Islamic finance abroad, not for HK homebuyers  

Michael Martin
Updated on Jul 04, 2010 

He was born and bred in Hong Kong, but as a devout Muslim, Akhtar Hussain can't buy a home here.
Banking giants like HSBC and Standard Chartered offer Islamic mortgages structured to comply with the tenets of the Islamic faith in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and even Britain, but not in Hong Kong.
"I went to Hang Seng Bank and the Bank of China, and they agreed to give me a loan. But it is not  according to Islamic law," Hussain said.
Mufti Muhammad Arshad, Hong Kong's chief imam and authority on Islamic law, advised Hussain that  Islam prohibited Muslims from borrowing money with interest.
In Islam, riba, translated as usury or interest, is a sin. Some Muslim scholars argue that the term refers to usury - which is an excessively high rate of interest - and not regular interest, but Mufti Arshad believes the terms are synonymous.
Hussain is among an emerging class of Muslims who have the means to look for stable housing, but the lack of Islamic financial services keeps them subject to rent increases and lease renewals. Mufti Arshad numbers cases like Hussain's "in the hundreds." Without other options, some local Muslims are left breaking the rules, in what the mufti calls a sin tantamount to eating pork.
The Hussain family arrived in Hong Kong 33 years ago from Pakistan. Since then, they have worked in retail at Chungking Mansions.  Between his Islamic book stall and a mobile phone business, Hussain makes around HK$50,000 a month and hopes to buy a home in Tuen Mun for about HK$1.3 million.
Rent increases keep his family - a wife and two children aged two and seven - on the move. "We are living in Hong Kong. Our kids are living here too," he said. "What we are thinking about is our kids."

Ideally, an Islamic bank would purchase Hussain's dream home from an original owner and, holding the title to the property, sell it to Hussain over several years. Interest would be paid in the form of fees  instead of interest, and the bank still makes a profit.
"Currently in Hong Kong, the Muslim population may not be enough to sustain Islamic banking solely for retail," said Damian Yip, divisional director of the Hong Kong branch of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.
HSBC's only Islamic banking facility in Hong Kong is the Hang Seng Islamic China index fund, created for retail investors in the city.
"Hong Kong may never be a core capital of Islamic finance due to the make-up of its population," said Razi Fakih, deputy chief executive of HSBC's Islamic banking facility, HSBC Amanah. The speciality branch offers services in seven countries, but according to Fakih there isn't enough demand to introduce it to Hong Kong.
In 2007, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced plans to turn Hong Kong into a hub of  Islamic investment, but little progress has been made to catapult Hong Kong into an industry that Moody's Investors Service expects will exceed US$1 trillion this year.
Bringing an Islamic bond market to Hong Kong demands a whole new set of banking institutions compliant with Islamic law on issues like interest and one that doesn't invest in industries prohibited by the faith, such as pornography and liquor.
In co-operation with Chinese University, Kuwait-Asia University is to open a business school university in the Arab emirates later this year to train new Islamic finance specialists.
Yip also said Islamic investment in Hong Kong may pick up at the end of the year. The Legislative Council is expected to introduce a bill relaxing double stamp duties on international investment. Measures like this helped promote Islamic investment in Britain and Singapore. In the meantime, Mufti Arshad says local Muslims still need Islamic banking. "Hong Kong banks don't realise how big the Muslim community here is," he said.
The 2008 Hong Kong Yearbook estimated 220,000 Muslims live in Hong Kong - a figure that includes some 150,000 Indonesian migrant workers.
Hameed Jalal, chairman of the  Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong, agreed that a need was not being met. Muslims in the housing market avoid mortgages altogether by choosing lower-cost properties or pooling resources from relations and paying for homes in cash.
Hussain's cousin Michael Ansari is also looking to buy a home in Hong Kong without violating his religious beliefs. He said the alternatives presented by Jalal were not even an option for him. "No one in our community is that wealthy," Ansari said.

China is on our side

The Cold war is over, the split between East and West evanesced.  We should not now be up in arms against China for they are on our side.  They are on the side of building and creating, vs destroying and submitting.  Mercantilists they may be, in China, as was the UK of the Victorians.  But so much preferable is mercantilism to islamism.  It's dar al-build vs dar al-destroy.  We do indeed love life more than islamists love death, and that includes Chinese.  But all the engagement happening from the Obama White House is directed at the Islamic world, while in the East, "US submarines emerge in a show of military might", to "send a signal" to China....
In today's South China Morning Post, Heizo Takenawa writes that "Japan struggles on while China surges". (I copy the whole article below, as you can only get it from the Post if you're registered with them).
The above picture, btw, is a ramen noodle wine bath, which would seem to cover both the experiences related below....

Gieves & Hawkes (?) and the Great Satan

The key difference between the Left and the Right on the causes of Islamist terrorism is this: on the Left the “G & H Thesis”, on the Right the “Great Satan thesis”.
G & H?  No, not Gieves & Hawkes, bespoke tailors, but “grievance and humiliation”.  That is, the view of the Left is that Islamist terrorism is caused by various grievances – such as the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, Israel’s “occupation” of “Palestinian lands”, and so forth.  The occupations in turn lead to humiliation and these fuel terrorism.  If we, the west, and especially the US, get out of Muslim lands, hand the Palestinians a state of their own, the causes -- grievance and humiliation --  and therefore the occurrences of terrorism will abate.